Researchers have discovered mountain ranges and three huge, deep subglacial valleys hidden beneath the Antarctica ice.
- The first to emerge from extensive ice penetrating radar data collected in Antarctica as part of the European Space Agency PolarGAP project.
- Although there are extensive satellite data that help image the surface of the Earth and its deep interior, there was a gap around the South Pole area, which is not covered by satellites due the inclination of their orbits. The PolarGAP project was therefore designed to fill in the gap in the satellite data coverage of the South Pole and in particular acquire the missing gravity data.
- Airborne radar data were also collected to enable mapping of the bedrock topography hidden beneath the ice sheet. The data reveals the topography which controls how quickly ice flows between the East and West Antarctic ice sheets.
- The largest valley, known as the Foundation Trough, is more than 350 kilometres long and 35 kilometres wide. Its length is equivalent to the distance from London to Manchester, while its width amounts to more than one and a half times the length of New York’s Manhattan Island.
- The two other troughs are equally vast. The Patuxent Trough is more than 300 kilometres long and over 15 kilometres wide, while the Offset Rift Basin is 150 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide.
New aerogeophysical data will also enable new research into the geological processes that created the mountains and basins before the Antarctic ice sheet itself was born.